When it comes to any matter of revelation, big or small, I want to know the truth. And knowing what the Bible teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit is no exception. However, if the title of this article piqued your interest, and you followed the link to see what “side of the Holy Spirit discussion I was going to come down on,” then I guess I will have to plead guilty to”bait and switch.”
You see, this article isn’t really about how the Holy Spirit works, but rather it is about our attitudes toward brethren who disagree with our understanding of this topic.
Please consider these three attitudinal points the next time you study with, talk to, or write an article about the work of the Holy Spirit.
- Represent each other fairly and accurately. Straw men are always much easier to defeat, but such tactics are beneath the integrity a disciple of Jesus should possess (Titus 2:7). How many times have we heard someone paint a caricature of a brother’s understanding of the Holy Spirit as, “He thinks the Holy Spirit is the Bible?” or “He thinks the Godhead is the ‘Father, Son, & Holy Scriptures?'” Then on the other extreme we hear people say things like, “He might as well claim to speak in tongues, do miracles, and write another book of the Bible?” Neither of these caricatures are fair or accurate. If one believes the Holy Spirit indwells representatively through the Word, don’t misrepresent him by saying he doesn’t believe in the indwelling. That just simply isn’t true. You may have a disagreement with him as to the manner of the indwelling, but you don’t have a disagreement on whether the Spirit indwells. Likewise, if one believes in a personal indwelling, don’t misrepresent his view by accusing him of leaning toward Pentecostalism. Such doesn’t necessarily follow.
- Don’t be so quick to make disagreements a fellowship issue. That is not to say there are no errors that are fellowship issues, but it is to say that not every disagreement, not every blind spot, and not every misunderstanding among brethren is a reason to divide and break fellowship. In Romans 14, Paul addressed issues in the first century over which brethren disagreed. Furthermore, he expounded on which side was correct and which side was incorrect in their understanding (Romans 14:14-15). Yet, even after his explanation, he called for patience, understanding, tolerance, and love. While we should always strive to know and practice truth, not every misunderstanding of God’s will is a fellowship issue. Several years ago, a preacher I knew was calling for brethren to disfellowship another preacher because of a disagreement he had with him on the Holy Spirit. I asked this brother why this man’s “misunderstanding” required a breach of fellowship. I asked him what the criteria was for disfellowshipping one brother for an error and not disfellowshipping another brother for a different error. He had no answer to that question. If one hasn’t even worked out a criteria for fellowship and disfellowship, he might give pause before being so eager to disfellowship another. The consequences of believing we must
agree on everything to remain in fellowship with each other will force us to draw our circle smaller and smaller. Eventually our circle will be so small we won’t even be able to worship with our spouse and children.
- Be more concerned with the conclusions of your study than the “camp” into which your study puts you. When someone with a denominational background studies with us, we continually encourage them to follow truth, even if it means they must make difficult changes. Why wouldn’t this good advice also apply to us? Stop worrying about who takes what position on the Holy Spirit. Instead, do your own diligent study. Be content with the answers God gives, and stop looking for answers to questions God never asked.
So there you have it. While I don’t have all the answers to all the questions that can be asked about the Holy Spirit, I do believe I have answers as to how we should approach this subject. What do you think?